Flash spell check developer upset by competition from Adobe Squiggly

Grant Skinner is the developer of Spelling Plus Library, a spell checking engine for Flex, Flash and AIR. He is displeased that Adobe has now released Squiggly on Adobe Labs – a free component that does the same kind of thing. Skinner refers to the general lack of commercial Flash components:

One of the things that the Flash world really lacks is a strong commercial component marketplace. We have a thriving OSS culture, which is awesome, but while it is very prolific it rarely creates highly reliable, documented, and well-supported libraries. It’s a weakness of the platform, especially when you look at the hundreds or thousands of enterprise class commercial components available for languages like Java or C#.

It is an interesting point. I have always found it intriguing that the commercial component market is so much dominated by Microsoft, thanks perhaps to its early success with VBX and then ActiveX controls for Visual Basic. Despite the maturity of Flash and its popularity among developers, I can more easily name companies with commercial Silverlight components than Flash equivalents – companies like Devexpress, Infragistics, ComponentOne, and Telerik.

Skinner is therefore upset that Adobe has picked a spell checker for its free offering:

When Adobe spends a large amount of resources building a spelling component that directly competes with one of the few successful commercial components in the Flash world, it frustrates me.

though I imagine the impact on his sales is a large factor in his reaction.

The truth is that component vendors always have to play this game of trying to stay ahead of what developers can get for free, either from open source or from what is bundled into the core SDK.

Note that Intel’s just-announced AppDeveloper program for Atom netbooks includes a component marketplace for AIR. I am not sure how significant it will be, but it is another outlet for Flash component vendors.

3 thoughts on “Flash spell check developer upset by competition from Adobe Squiggly”

  1. Tim: Or not necessarily what’s in the SDK. After all, to continue your example, we Silverlight control vendors have to compete with the Silverlight Toolkit, a free library being written by Microsoft and hosted on CodePlex. And of course, since we also compete with each other, we’re having to continually improve our controls: we have to do better than free and better than each other. Customers win hands down.

    I’ll agree that the commercial Flash/Flex component market isn’t as fully fleshed out or as mature as the .NET one. (For instance, I periodically get requests from customers asking for our grid in Flash.) However the excuse can’t be it’s a “thriving OSS culture” (.NET has a huge OSS culture too, as well as all the free MS stuff), nor can it be just the “fault” of Adobe. At some point, the commercial third-party control vendors must take some of the blame: they don’t advertise, they don’t pester Adobe for recognition, they don’t innovate quickly enough, they don’t get noticed, they don’t do enough SEO, whatever.

    Case in point: I can’t find a link to Mr Skinner’s spellcheck library from the gskinner.com home page. You have to Google and go to his blog. (The home page, being a Flash app, is unindexed by Google anyway.) And this is one of the, quote, few successful commercial components in the Flash world, unquote. Quite.

    Cheers, Julian
    CTO, DevExpress

  2. Tim wrote: “though I imagine the impact on his sales is a large factor in his reaction”

    In a comment on his blog Grant Skinner writes: “As much as it’s hard to believe, I really am not concerned about any lost revenue. SPL was a technical experiment that happily became a revenue stream, was much more successful than I expected, and has remained unchallenged for much longer than I would have expected.”

    I think Grant is really concerned with the bigger issue. How should a platform company behave? A platform company can say anything the want about the importance of third party developers, but it is what they actually do in the market place that stops people like Grant and makes them think again.

    There should be something in between co-operation on open source projects and platform vendor vs third party developer competition/annihilation in the commercial marketplace.

    I don’t know what that looks like exactly except that it should include a blend of cooperation and competition. But I think Grant is right to say something is not quite right today and that Adobe needs to do something new and creative to foster a more vibrant (and I think more cooperative) commercial market place.

    After all its in Adobe’s interest. They don’t have Microsoft’s resources. They need help from other developers and they need to think about how to rethink their own business practices to encourage people like Grant to take commercial risks that can lead to longer term rewards in a growing market place.

    Also, Grant is very well respected and his team was contracted to build the AS3 component set in Flash when Adobe turned all their attention to Flex. He did some fine work but the components set was not as complete as what used to be in Flash. I guess Adobe didn’t ask him to continue the work after Flash 9 shipped. Later people like Yahoo did more work to round out what is available. In hindsight I wonder if there might have been a better model for getting that project done that would have allowed more third party developers to add to the framework Grant created as his work matured. I realise it’s hard to manage those things, control costs, and contain legal exposures, but as I recall what shipped in Flash 9 was painfully incomplete.

    At any rate there are real problems with the current approach Adobe is using and Grant’s advice that they should think again seems sound to me.

  3. In regards to software/development/spell checkers. Sorry to intervene but breaking into a software developers market is like tossing a coin into the void. Simply trying to locate and contact how to get into conversation with developers who are interested in discussing what we have for the table.

    We have published a wordspeller/phonetic dictionary in book format. Requiring 11 years to develop, 250 pages of digital misspellings were removed to accomodate it in print version which is now 500 pages. Looking to lease/sell the digital version and be allowed to expand and update it daily.

    This book is a ‘must have’ for over 90 million dyslexics in America. As well, it is being purchased by ESL teachers/tutors for public schools and literacy centers.

    When we contacted the IPA inquiring as to why spell checkers were still incapable of providing a list of words based upon phonetic spellings, they invited us to bring our research and material to participate on a committee to ‘propose’ the idea of developing phonetic codecs for digital spell checkers. We declined realizing we are way ahead of the curve.

    Current ISO codes only allow for the first 2-3 letters (sometimes) of a properly spelled word. A phonetically spelled word reveals nothing but frustration for those who spell phonetically. This digital book will locate their word phonetically with the first 2-3 letters plus cross-reference them.

    The publisher is now seeking developers who might be interested in having over 100,000 phonetically spelled words to include into their spell checkers. These words have also been extensively ‘cross referenced’. Ex: Is it ‘petal’ or ‘pedal’ or ‘peddle’/ ‘carrot’ or ‘karat’ or ‘caret’ or ‘carat’?

    As well, it required over 12 standard dictionaries to amass together all the known:

    * suffix endings for over 50,000 words. No reference tool exists today (not even digitally) that can provide all these endings for an English root word.
    * prefixes
    * prefix definitions

    This book now, via teachers and word-of-mouth only, exists in over 400 public school districts, public libraries and we haven’t even begun to invest into advertising and promotion. It is in public libraries in Canada and with teachers in Canada, U.K., The Netherlands, Japan, Mexico. The Japenese phonetic sounds have mostly been covered as well as American English for over 1,000 dialects. The phonetic representations for other languages will be an ever-evolving list which is why this is more suitable in a digital form over a book form to allow for daily changes.

    Thousands have requested this book to be made available digitally (especially in Mexico). This is impossible for now (will be pirated in a New York second) which is why we care to lease our digital interest to a software company who will protect it for inclusion into a word search program. We also care to update the database daily as suggestions come in.

    As long as over 400 million Americans are challenged with our English spelling rules, any new resource tool will be helpful.

    Thank you for your time. We look forward to corresponding!

    DMFrank Publishing

Comments are closed.